Here he sits at a table
in the kitchen, a vase of poppies
set just so, and on his palette
water mixed with tinctures
he’s hidden in canisters, colors
brought out against orders.
Is a flower’s soul always innocent?
Perhaps a bit of carmine,
and stems of grenadine.
These he renders on letter paper
taken from the office upstairs.
Verboten, the act of painting
this degenerate modernism
that spilled from his oils
before the regime gave its orders.
And he a former sympathizer.
Maybe a flower becomes a soldier,
the shoulders overbearing
above slender legs walking
all night in the snow. Does
the tulip bleed into its neighbour,
and, if a cloud comes
to the window, might it blot out
the sun almost completely?
These shapes, a bouquet
unfettered above turquoise,
a garden fragrant with peonies
and lilac blended such that
there is no ground upon which
to grow. Sometimes the sea
threatens to inhale him,
just as it has his work--verboten--
the next wave coming on violet seas
with its undertow, undiluted white
set to drown his own
brooding maze of moods
from the once-upon-a-yellow-sky.
Judith Skillman’s recent book is Kafka’s Shadow, Deerbrook Editions. Her work has appeared in LitMag, Shenandoah, Zyzzyva, FIELD, and elsewhere. Awards include an Eric Mathieu King Fund grant from the Academy of American Poets. She is a faculty member at the Richard Hugo House in Seattle, Washington. Visit www.judithskillman.com
The Ekphrastic Review
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